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The Bible: How do you read it?

Many times when we read our Bibles, we jump to application. That is not always a bad thing, as we do want to be “doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22 ESV). However, there are some inherent dangers of jumping too quickly to application. Subtly, we can start to approach the Bible as a collection of moral lessons, and examples of faithful men and women for us to follow.

The Bible is then approached like it is first and foremost about me and what I need to do, as opposed to seeing it first and foremost as a revelation of God – beholding him in the person of Jesus.

The heart is central

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV)

God is not only concerned with what we do, but why we do it. Our heart motivation should be worship and a love for God. Without a heart centred on Jesus as our first love, everything in our life will be off-kilter. So the fight of faith we have every day is a battle to truly love and treasure God through believing the Gospel of Jesus. Knowing God’s good news story and finding our identity in Jesus has breathtaking implications for how we live. Our Gospel identity—the knowledge that in Jesus we are forgiven, accepted, and loved—should continually strengthen our hearts.

Love of God does not happen through self-effort. It comes from knowing and believing the Gospel. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19 ESV). The truth of the Gospel awakens our hearts to the grace, wonder, beauty, goodness, joy, and love of God. Out of this flows love for others. This is a gracious work of the Spirit.

Jesus himself taught us how to approach the Bible, and for what purpose. In John’s Gospel account, we learn that there is a wrong and a right way to read the Bible.

[39] You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, [40] yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:39-40 ESV)

It is important to understand that the Bible is written for us but not primarily about us – it is about Jesus. So to that end, we have the Bible as a window to behold the beauty of Jesus.

If you approach the Scriptures as first and foremost about you and what you must do, then there is a tendency to slide into a contractual relationship with God. We can start to relate to God as a divine employer whom we need to serve. With this mindset, intimacy is lost.

When we see that the Bible is primarily bearing witness about Jesus, we are drawn away from our self-focus to behold the wonder and beauty of God in the face of our Lord and Savior. We begin to experience the wonderful freedom of self-forgetfulness!

There is one more step Jesus encourages us towards in John 5:40. We don’t just want to read the Bible as a book about Jesus, we also want to make sure we do not stop short of coming to him for life! This is not just a one time, initial coming to faith, response. This is an ongoing need. We both meet and commune with the living Word, Jesus, in and through the revelation of this Book. Apart from him, we can do nothing. We need to abide in him. Thus, as we behold Jesus in the pages of this unfolding redemptive story, we come to him and rightly engage with him – in repentance, faith, praise, thanksgiving, need, love, worship, and great hope!

The Bible is a revelation of God—as seen in Jesus.

And we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)

The Spirit opens our eyes and hearts to the wonder of God’s redemptive story, revealing to us who God is and what he has done for us in Jesus. This moves us to know, love, and treasure Jesus more and more. This is the transformation promised to us as we “behold the glory of the Lord.” That is what the Scriptures are designed to do.

In my own heart, I need an ongoing reminder of the good news story of Jesus or else I can easily find myself slipping into religious duty. This way of relating to God always leads to pride and self-righteousness, if I think I am doing well; or despair, if I think I am not living up to God’s standards. But the Gospel of God’s grace and full acceptance in Jesus leads to a very different end. The Gospel of Jesus humbles me, as I am so undeserving, and the cost Jesus paid was so immense. At the same time, it gives me great confidence because I am loved by Jesus who has done it all. Jesus earned God’s favour for me, having taken my curse upon himself! Wow, how incredible is that?

As you pick up your Bible to read this week, may you recognize it as an invitation to know, in an ever-increasing measure, the God of love and grace in whom is joy and life that knows no end!

May we come to the Bible, hungering and thirsting to know God more and more. This will not only move us to fully trust him, but also be better equipped to live in light of the Gospel each day, for God’s glory, your own joy, and so you might share this good news story with others!


The content of the article was adapted from material in The Good News Story video curriculum and study guide.